Single origin coffee is traceable back to a specific country, farmer, region or crop. This differs from blend coffee which can be made up of beans from many different places.
This coffee is from Kenya and offers up hints of blackcurrant, lemon and vine tomato. It’s a delicious, refreshing brew that’s best enjoyed filtered.
The origin of coffee is one of the most important factors in its taste. Single origin coffee is sourced from a specific region and country, whereas blends are made from beans from multiple regions. Because of this, single origin coffee has a stronger and more distinctive flavor than blends.
While the exact origin of coffee is unclear, the general consensus is that it was first cultivated in Ethiopia. The most popular story involves a goat herder named Kaldi, who noticed that his goats were very energetic and enthusiastic after eating coffee berries. He decided to try some himself, and was pleasantly surprised by the stimulating effect. He shared his discovery with abbots at his monastery, and the rest is history.
Coffee from different regions will have distinct flavors, based on the soil and climate conditions, as well as the farming practices of the farmers and the varietals used. Much like a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa will have different characteristics than a Sangiovese from Tuscany, the same is true for coffee.
Specialty roasters often aim to tell a full coffee story, from farm to cup. They usually have the origin of their coffee prominently displayed, and many use a “direct trade” model to bypass commodity market middlemen and pay the farmer more for their product. This is a controversial practice that has drawn criticism from fair-trade organizations, who argue that it undermines the quality of the coffee and does not support social justice for farmers.
Single origin coffees embody the signature flavors of their region. The soil and climate conditions of a country or region contribute to the uniqueness of a specific coffee bean, much like how a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa will taste different than a Sangiovese from Tuscany.
This is why it is important to learn about the regions and farms that produce the beans you drink. For instance, if you want to know more about our Mexico Single Origin, which is a light roast with chocolate, citrus, and raisin flavor notes, take a look at the coffee’s description to see the origin, altitude, weather patterns, and more information about the farm and its process.
The most important thing to remember about single origin coffee is that it is not blended with other beans from the same country or region. This makes it a very exclusive coffee because you will be tasting the distinct characteristics of that particular region and farmer in your cup.
Some coffee roasters create blends as a result of experimentation or to fulfill a particular profile, but they should always be based on quality beans that have been roasted to bring out their inherent characteristics. It is important to try single origin coffees as well to compare the differences in flavor between them and a typical coffee blend.
Unlike blend coffees, which use beans from multiple regions and countries to create a desired flavor profile, single origin coffees can be traced back to an individual farm, farmer, producer or crop in a specific region. The unique terroir of the area in which the bean is grown, as well as specific agricultural and processing methods, contribute to its distinctive flavor characteristics.
Some specialty roasters bypass commodity market middlemen to directly source their coffee from farmers. This practice, which is sometimes referred to as “direct trade” or “fair trade alternative”, has been criticized by those who see it as a move away from social justice and toward commoditization.
It’s also worth noting that, while many of the roasters in our curated collection carry out this type of sourcing, even those with a reputation for conscientious purchasing have plenty of wiggle room to make their purchasing claims sound good (the term used to describe an agreed-upon price for something up to and including it being loaded on a ship is FOB or Free on Board).
Some, like Counter Culture, have taken steps to help close the gap between consumers and farmers by publishing transparency reports on their website. These include the name of the producer, coffee quality score and/or grade, purchase volume, the length of the relationship, the percentage of their total purchases that were sourced with this method, and more.
Like a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa or Sangiovese from Tuscany, coffee flavors reflect the soil and climate conditions of the region where it is grown. The varietal of the coffee plant, shade and farming practices, the type of water, if fertilizer was used or not, the things that grow in the soil, the processing and roasting techniques, and a thousand other factors influence the final product.
A handful of specialty roasters seek higher-quality flavors and bypass commodity market middlemen to directly source single-origin beans from farmers. The practice has drawn scornExternal link from fair trade traders who contend that while it supports quality for consumers, it does not support social justice for farmers.
Increasingly, roasters are establishing relationships with growers in the origin country, visiting farms and meeting farmers in person. This can offer greater transparency to the end consumer, as well as provide feedback that allows producers to adapt their approaches to yield better results.
However, the process of communicating to the roasters and consumers about the value of the coffee can be tricky. The actual price paid to a farmer varies and depends on a variety of factors, including the exchange rate between USD and local currency. For example, when Counter Culture reports a farmgate price of $1,500,000 per carga (2.2 lbs) in Colombia or Ethiopia, they are actually reporting the FOB (Free on Board) cost which takes into account all the charges to get the greens from the farm and on the ship for export to the destination port.